4 Things You Shouldn't Do With the Internet
The Internet's great. You should use it for lots of things. It's also terrible. You shouldn't use it for the following things.
Try to Launch Your Music Career (As a Child)
On your mark. Get set. Real talk.
When I was 12 years old, I built miniature versions of everyone I knew in my middle school out of clay. All together, I had maybe 150 tiny figurines (some students, some teachers), all arranged on a little table in my bedroom (what I referred to at the time as "my lab"). Late at night, I'd steal my parents' VHS camera (note to the children who read this column: VHS tapes are what we used to have instead of DVDs, and VHS cameras are what we used to use to make movies instead of digital cameras, iPads and phones. Also, stop reading this column, it is not for children), and I would make short stop-motion movies with me and my massive cast of clay schoolmates. I was basically doing a one-man version of Saturday Night Live as understood by a child; I'd have me and all of my friends play different characters and shoot a bunch of sketches, including my best attempt at making a Weekend Update that tied into what happened at school that week. Why did I make a little clay Daniel and little clay Daniel's best friends dress up in costumes to play different characters when I could have just built characters out of clay? I don't know. No one will ever know.
I was REALLY into clay, is the point.
I'd also write songs in my lab, songs I would share with no one. There was one song about school being out for the summer, and "I'm So Happy, Someone Slap Me" was both the title and the only lyrics in the song, repeated over and over again. I also wrote a song about what I wanted to be when I grew up. There's a really cool key change in the song that would be enough to make it my best work, but it also featured the lyric "I don't wanna be a crocodile, I just wanna make you smile," which I guess cancels out whatever goodwill I'd earned with the frankly inspired key change.
Why bring all of this up? Because, every night before I go to sleep, I thank God or Aliens or Neil Tyson or Luck or the Spectacular Randomness of the Universe that YouTube didn't exist when I was a kid.
See, when I was a stupid kid, making terrible midnight sketches or embarrassing music videos in my lab, I just recorded it onto a VHS tape. And then I'd stick the tape in my TV, watch it, conclude "Nope, there's nothing wrong with that; that's as good as anything I've ever seen on television, I'm gonna be famous," and move on. I'd film my SNL knockoff sketches one week and then erase them the next week to make room for my new SNL knockoff sketches. Then I'd erase that a week later and replace it with a song about my dog, or a song about how I wanted the girl who sat in front of me in English class to notice me, or a song about professional wrestler Sting, and how cool it would be if the two of us solved mysteries and were friends.
But if YouTube had been around and as stupidly easy to use in 1996 as it is today, those videos would be uploaded straight to the Internet for absolutely everyone to see, because as a kid, you have no objectivity whatsoever. Or taste. Or skills. Nothing. Children are terrible.
Unfortunately, YouTube is here now, for everyone, forever. Which is how a video like this can hit the Internet.
The video linked above is of a young kid, Max Harris, performing an original song of his called "High." He is, I'm assuming, 13 years old. I assume 13 because everything about this music video -- the lyrics, the dancing, the deep and thoughtful staring into the camera -- just screams "I am 13 and this is what I think a serious adult song looks and sounds like."
The video is destined to become Internet famous. It hits that perfect intersection of "alarming terribleness" and "total earnestness." There's even a part where the poor kid whispers about how he's on a sinking ship, and he cries into the camera with the kind of shameless, childlike conviction that I will never again feel about anything. There's no way he doesn't become the next Internet "thing." Reddit will end up making image macros featuring Max's likeness. People will do soulful, hipstery piano covers of it, like they did for Rebecca Black's song. Someone will Auto-Tune it (or, more likely, a hundred freaking people will Auto-Tune it). This kid, whether he knows it or not, is now a meme. Forever.
I have a hard time watching that video, with its "artistic" low-angle shots and its ... you know, all that other stuff. Not because I'm laughing at or mocking the kid, but because I was that kid. Sure, my songs never featured intense whispering, my dance style was less "hip-gyration" and more "robot who can jump," and my songs were largely about corn dogs and not the pursuit of getting high (he means emotionally), but other than that, the only difference between this kid and me is that I didn't have YouTube or anything like it. And I guess it's impossible for me to know for sure, but I'm almost positive that my life is better because of that.
This could have been me.
YouTube gave children an audience, but no one ever told those children, "Hey, you're not going to make a decent piece of original work for over a decade, so please keep the creative stuff to yourself and your small group of friends (clay or otherwise)." Little kids all over the Internet are putting up videos of themselves singing. Some of them will never break 25 views. Some of them will be shockingly great. And some of them, like poor Max's, are headed straight for Internet stardom, and not the good kind. That's got to be terrible for a kid, right? Being a 13-year-old kid is already kind of awful on its own; no child anywhere should have to deal with becoming an insulting Internet meme. The Internet hasn't been around long enough for us to figure out what that does to a child's psyche, but I can't imagine it's great.
Have you guys ever heard of the actor Brian Presley? He's got a few IMDb credits under his belt, and he's a pretty good-looking guy with a relatively well-balanced life. He's got a wife and a kid, apparently. And a few days ago, he attempted to cheat on his wife with a famous supermodel on a plane. Who tweeted the entire gross ordeal.
Model Melissa Stetten live-tweeted every single detail to her 22,000+ followers. This includes some of Brian's sleazier bits ...
... plus just some general embarrassing dumb-guy stuff.
My favorite (least favorite?) part is when Brian (who told Melissa he only wore a wedding ring because he "liked it") tells Melissa that the two of them sitting together on a plane must be "divine interception." There's so much wrapped up in that phrase. He has communicated A) that he thinks God put them together for a reason; B) that he thinks that reason is fucking on a plane; and C) that he's a total idiot. "Divine interception" isn't a thing, or, at least, not yet, but it will be once my movie about Eddie Murphy dying and then returning to Earth as an angel who has to help his old football team of scrappy underdogs win the Super Bowl gets funding.
I'm sure Brian was going through some ... things. Apparently, he's supposed to be clean and sober, but was clearly drinking on this flight. It sounds like he isn't in a great place right now, so he doesn't need some other shitty Internet writer making stupid jokes about his life while it falls apart.
But I will say that the Internet's been around for sort of a while now. The first time a celebrity's sex tape or embarrassing email leaked to the Internet, every other celebrity should have immediately thought, "Ah, yes, the Internet, big opportunity to publicly embarrass myself, every second of every day. Probably best if I just shut up, forever." We KNOW how the Internet works, so if you're trying to commit adultery with someone who is clearly not interested who keeps typing on their phone and even takes a picture of you, it's safe to assume that you're being Internetted. Gawker will write three different stories if Johnny Depp takes a shit; you'd better assume that someone will cover your public adultery.
Use It to Complain to the President
Back in April, former child star Amanda Bynes was arrested for a DUI after she reportedly sideswiped a police car. There's nothing funny about that to me. Because driving drunk isn't funny, and because celebrities thinking they're allowed to do whatever they want isn't funny, and because I take no real joy in an inoffensive former Nickelodeon star making some terrible decisions.
Then two days ago she had her court hearing, where she was officially charged with one count of misdemeanor DUI. And then she tweeted the President of the United States of America and asked him to fire the cop who arrested her.
And you better believe I can laugh at that. Now, I don't know everything about presidents, but I know a lot, and I'm almost positive that a president doesn't have the power to arbitrarily fire any random police officer working in America, no matter how mean that cop might have been to one of the actors from Hairspray.
Now, I'll admit, I don't have the smartest Twitter account in the whole world ...
... but I do take pride in the fact that, as dumb as I am, I've never publicly asked President Barack Obama to fire a cop who I thought was mean to me. Bynes making such a casual, clueless tweet is one of the worst displays of entitled celebrity culture I've seen in a while, and I'm alive in Los Angeles in the present, where entitled celebrity culture is actually treated as legal currency.
And let's say Amanda Bynes is telling the truth. Let's say that a cop is wrongfully accusing her of a crime she didn't commit. She could be as innocent as a snowflake, but publicly telling the president to fire said police officer is one of the most oblivious and aggressively ignorant moves she could have made.
Find Out How to Murder Someone
This is sad. About a week ago, two people in Florida murdered their roommate. That's the sad part.
Now here's the dumb part: The police found the killers because they had "ways to kill people in their sleep" in their Google search history.
They Googled murder and "how to create an alibi" before murdering someone and didn't expect to get caught. In 2012. Now, we've all done our fair share of humiliating Googling (my current search history includes "Is gluten an animal?" and "Is there a petition to get Space Jam on Netflix Instant??"), but we've also all been on the Internet long enough to know that absolutely everything we've ever done can and will come back to haunt us. I'm still convinced that my old college, Rutgers University, refuses to take my calls because it knows I once Googled "Is it normal to be attracted to The Lion King's Nala?" from one of their computer labs.
I've got this mostly under control now, but every so often ...
But these people Googled "murder," and everything around murder. Just take a look at their computer history:
"What kind of chemicals make you pass out?" "What's on those rags that make people pass out?" "Murder-suicide." You can't make this stuff up, these people ... wait. Hang on one second.
They stopped in the middle of their murder Googling to read a freaking Cracked article?! Look, traffic is traffic, and we're happy to get the hits, but I'm not too thrilled that murderers read this website. We specifically avoid writing articles teaching people how to murder other people because it's simply not a market we're hoping to break into. Also, if they're trying to kill someone in their sleep, what good could come of reading an article about insane things people have done while sleepwalking? Were they worried they'd make their victim pass out, only to have that victim sleepwalk her way to the police department to file a report? Also, I know you guys are the stupidest people on a list of exorbitantly stupid people written by an endearingly stupid guy, but, like ... focus. If you're going to murder someone, don't get sidetracked by Cracked.
That goes for all of you murderers. Please stay away from Cracked.com and everyone involved with it.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked's senior writer (ladies) and has no advice for murderers (murderers, police officers, also ladies, I guess).